***Update: Before we get into this post, I just saw this, very obvious reason, why ArenaNet is awesome. See how they pay tribute to a fallen gamer.***
The long-anticipated time is almost upon us. Guild Wars 2 has a release date, August 28th, and we are now one day into the last beta event before we get the goods. I didn’t get a chance to play it yesterday, but now it’s Saturday morning, the house is quiet, the air is still…almost like the morning right before a huge battle…and I’m downloading the update! Sorry, that’s not a critique on Arenanet, I’m glad it’s a lot of files, that means a lot of content to explore. I was just trying to build up drama and all that. Don’t mind me, I haven’t finished my coffee for the morning. I’ve already participated in one beta and I was blown away. Despite the bugs and problems that needed work, the game looked and felt so good. If you were a fan of the original and you haven’t picked up your pre-order then you are simply crazy. If you like RPGs, MMOs or online games at all you should at least be checking this out. Find someone that owns it, get over to their house this weekend and demand they show you! Trust me, from someone that got in on the first one late in the game, you do not want to miss out on playing this game from the moment it’s available.
All right, files are downloaded, logged in and getting into character creation. This process is so much more complex than it was in the original game. Not only do you get to choose the typical height, weight, hair and eyes, body type, and all the basics, they have added levels of detail to these that is just staggering. In face details, you can change the eyes, everything from eyebrow placement, to iris size, to width. You can change the nose in every dimension as well as that of the mouth, ears and chin. Back when they started talking about the character creation they said this game would decrease the chances of meeting another character that looks just like yours and they were right. Then you dye your armor, and move on to the next page of creation.
I chose a ranger, so the next parts of creation deal with the class features. As a pet my initial choices are Moa Bird, Stalker (feline creature), and a fern hound. I’d like to see more choices, or, honestly, see them go the route the first game did and have you go find your first pet, but I am choosing the stalker. Beggars can’t be choosers…well in this case I get to choose, but you know what I mean. Then it’s onto backgrounds, these determine how your story goes I believe, we’ll see when things get rolling. I chose ferocity for my character’s first background trait. For the next trait they ask what quest your character dreamed of, I’m going with The Green Knight, it seems to hint at perseverance and fortitude. Next it asks me what is the most important of Ventari’s teachings. In the game Ventari is one of the fictional characters from the original game, a wise old centaur…I’m going with “Act with wisdom, but act.” Finally it asks me when my character was born. Sylvari are born from a being called The Pale Tree. The time of day your Sylvari was born in determines their nature, and the ‘court’ they belong to among this culture. I am liking Cycle of Night, secretive and cautious, and independent.
***Tiny bit of spoiler alert***
As I think I covered in the last beta discussion, Guild Wars 2 handles introduction to the game in a much different way than it’s predecessor, or really any other RPG’s that I have seen. After your character creation, and watching the little cinematic, which was great by the way, you pop right into a living world full of people talking, sounds, sights, and immersion. You are asked, by someone close, to come over for a chat, and away you go. There’s no tutorial level, no floaty question marks or exclamation points, and no quest boxes asking you to accept or decline. You listen to the story the speaker gives you and if you want to do it you go do it, if not, you don’t. The first person you talk to, if you respond to the summons is Caithe, from the introductory movies. I chose to follow this first path in my character’s story, going off to find some poison in the woods, but first, we had to fight some hounds. That done we moved on, and finally came to the scene of the trouble. Once there a small cinematic played, and a massive, tree-like dragon, pulled itself out of the forest floor, and it was time to have some fun.
What you are seeing there is a quick cap I took of the dragon after it came out of the ground. This is actually the second one I took, in my haste to get a good shot and then get into the fight. That thing is simply huge, much larger of scale than anything we saw in Guild Wars. There were a lot of people around, not even a single person actually in my party! Just people who were close enough to see the fight start and come running to help out. It was a challenge, fun, and wow, the imagery. I’m a big one for graphics, between that and sound, that’s all you have to immerse yourself into a video game. Your other senses are useless in this type of experience, so I’ve never understood why people claim that graphics aren’t important. Sure, story is too, but something can have the most amazing story, and be crap to look at. If I want story there are hundreds of books in my library to read, I want the full package when I play a game.
On top of the great action, the ease of play, and the great interface, Guild Wars 2 has great sound. All of the effects are great, but in the long term, music is what captures me in a game. It’s the times where no action is going on, when you are just taking it all in, that the music matters the most. Running through the initial areas of this game I was so engaged by the music. So far, great fun.
Stay tuned for more updates all weekend. I’m going to jump back in and create a different character, throw you some more screenies, and learn more about this game. Until then, I will leave you with this show, one of my favorites so far.